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Book Review: Sleep Sister by Karen Breen

Sleep Sister by Karen Breen

Sleep Sister by local writer Karen Breen is exceptionally well-crafted, so much so it is hard to believe this is a debut novel!

The book centres on two sisters, Gilly and Marina, and moves back and forth in time from 1973 and 1987. In the opening of the book the reader learns how the girls’ divorced mother, Lynnette, seduced and married their stepfather Brian, changing forever the family dynamics with the birth of Davy. Marina loves her little brother, but Gilly, the feistier older sister, is resentful of this new inclusion to the family.

A tragic turning point occurs in 1979 when the family travels to Awhina Bay in Northland for a family holiday, plunging the family into crisis, after childhood games go badly wrong. Marina retreats into herself, becoming an outsider in the family. She begins visiting her grandfather, Donald, who suffers from dementia and who has his own traumatic past. Gilly becomes a rebellious teenager, but eventually becomes closer to her mother. But when Donald dies, the family’s dark past resurfaces. Gilly’s life begins falling apart, while Marina runs away from home…

Karen Breen portrays the complicated nature of sisterhood and these two very different characters in a way that brings them vividly, and believably, to life. She also captures the sights, smells and sounds of the lazy summer holiday when things went so wrong, and their lives before and after. This is a novel to read slowly and savour. I look forward to reading the next novel from this accomplished writer.

#bookreviews #fiction

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